Torii Station plays ball with Japanese sports teams
As early spring approaches, Japanese professional sporting teams seek out warmer locales to get a jump on their training schedules, escaping the cold and flocking south to the Okinawa sunshine.
U.S. Army Garrison - Okinawa opens its doors to the teams, welcoming them on base and into their facilities for training. Beginning in early February 2017 through the end of March, USAG-O welcomed both the Chunichi Dragons baseball team and the national women’s Sakura Sevens rugby team to use the on-base facilities. Both teams used the Torii gym facilities for workouts and have future facilities use scheduled.
The Chunichi Dragons are one of 12 professional baseball teams in Japan; every February, nine of the professional baseball teams visit Okinawa for spring training. The Dragons have been hosted by Yomitan Village since the 1990s and stay at the Royal Hotel, located near Torii Station’s main gate.
Torii Station first opened up to the Chunichi Dragons in January 2016, and the partnership has since grown. The team uses Torii Gym on off days or after regular training when their team members want to do voluntary training.
“[The Garrison] has been trying to hold some joint events with the team, but since they have a busy schedule during the sports camp, we are still looking for an opportunity,” said Mami Yonamine, community relations specialist. “Instead, the team invited the Garrison Commander and Command Sergeant Major to their baseball game scheduled on February 17.”
Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Lance O’Bryan stressed the importance of community relations. "We are happy to open our facilities to professional sports teams like the Chunichi Dragons and it's a great way to give Soldiers a chance to interact. The Army is a competitive sport and the only way that we can win is through teamwork and that's something that these professional teams can attest to.”
This is the first year the women’s Sakura Sevens rugby team has used Torii Gym’s facilities, although they have been training in Okinawa for the past few years. The team held several gym workouts to prepare for the Okinawa Sevens Tournament.
"We heard Torii gym has a nice facility and are very glad our team can use it this time,” said Akane Kagawa, a team manager of the Sakura Sevens. “Our training time is limited but we would like to express our gratitude that USAG-Okinawa accepted our request and hope the Garrison Commander enjoys watching games in the tournament."
The Okinawa Sevens Tournament, a seven-a-side rugby event, took place at Cape Zanpa Ballpark Feb. 18-19. Six teams from five countries including Japan, the United States, France, Australia and the Netherlands participated in the tournament.
Greg Barron, Torii Station Outdoor Recreation director, is proud to support the professional teams alongside the Soldiers at Torii Station. “We are sought out by professional teams because our reputation for having a superb facility, professional knowledgeable staff and top-notch equipment has spread beyond the military community,” said Barron. “We offer a full array of cable machines, free weights, Nautilus and Hammer Strength machines as well as indoor racquetball and an indoor basketball gymnasium. Many of the athletes also take advantage of our sauna and Jacuzzi,” he said.
The teams are glad to have the opportunity to use the on-base facilities.
"We were glad to have the offer from [the Garrison], allowing our team to use such a fully equipped facility for training,” said Nami Kamiya, Chunichi Dragons representative. “It has large space to use machines comfortably and the machines are much greater than that of our own training room. It is also a wonderful opportunity for our players to train with U.S. military service members because our players can get stimulated doing workout with them. We hope we can keep this relationship with USAG-Okinawa."
U.S. Army Garrison-Okinawa hopes to continue to support both the Chunichi Dragons and the Sakura Sevens, as well as other professional sports teams from Japan. Torii Station also plans to support the men’s professional rugby team and the men’s national rugby team in the future.
“Good relationships with our neighbors are critical to our overall ability to live and operate in Okinawa,” said O’Bryan. “Maintaining open lines of communication and coordination only serves to further strengthen our ties with the community.”